Beyond COP 21 Symposium: What Our Youth Are Saying

“Every little thing matters, even if you don’t think it.”

On the 13th February SEEd took part in the Beyond COP 21 symposium, which this year was hosted by Wellington College, a Partner of SEEd.

During the day 600 students from Wellington College and surrounding schools took part in talks, presentations and workshops from a number of different organisations working with and for the environment and conservation. SEEd, along with another of our Partners: Solar for Schools, and several other organisations, ran workshops for students throughout the day. And our Ann Finlayson gave an excellent keynote speech exploring not just Who Gives a Crap toilet paper, but the systems around shopping sustainably.

During SEEd’s workshop, Rachael asked the young people in attendance to take some time to reflect on their own feelings around the information they had been given throughout the day. Using the SEEd Youth Attitudes to Sustainability Survey as a tool for learning and reflection, the students then explored their knowledge and understanding around sustainability, climate change, and the effects on their lives.

At the end of the workshop students were asked to respond to the statement ‘Sustainability is important in my life’, by placing a post it note somewhere between Agree and Disagree. They were given the option of placing a blank post it note, or one containing their reason for agreeing or disagreeing.

There was also an option for students, or groups of students, to leave a pledge; one thing that the would do or change in their lives to live more sustainably.

By the end of the day our scale showed that a huge percentage of students feel that sustainability is important in their lives, and that they were happy to show it. Our post it note scale leaned heavily towards agree, with the majority of students feeling concern about the future and a desire to do something. In the middle were several who hadn’t heard of sustainability before the day and felt they needed more information, and just a handful stood out in total disagreement with worries about insignificance and climate change being unavoidable.

And when it came to making pledges we had some lovely responses, including several around reusing and recycling, using less plastic and less resources in general, becoming vegetarian or vegan, spreading the word at school and giving assemblies, buying from local markets, checking if retailers are ethical before making purchases, developing new eco friendly products, and changing daily habits.

“Provocative – I haven’t once thought about sustainability”

“Sustainability is important so animals habitats will survive, and to allow our society to keep going and not be threatened.”

“I like trees and the planet!”

“It is very important to me because it affects us all and some small changes can have a large impact.”

“I want my future children to live in a healthy, safe, and good world.”

“I pledge to waste less food by eating it!”

“We need a global effort, not just small contributions.”

“If we don’t start living sustainably life would be dire and polluted.”

“It is important because it is our future, and it is our children’s future.”

“I feel like it’s a morally right thing to be sustainable.”

“It can be simple if we all do it.”